Cocktails at Death and Co in New York

Spots like Death and Co remind me why I am madly in love with New York. Atmosphere is everything! It’s dark, tiny, chic, exclusive, sexy, edgy, and made for small groups. Love it.

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My delicious poison of choice was The Sundance Kid, a Mezcal based cocktail that was equally tasty and pretty to look at. I also nibbled on the Truffle Mac and Cheese which came in these deliciously bite sized portions.

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Check this place out when you’re in NY/The Lower East Side, I loved it!

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The Soap Factory in Provo, Utah

Provo, Utah is a very cute little town. The vibe is laid back and friendly, I enjoyed passing through! The Soap Factory was a nice afternoon activity. I’ve never made soap or bath products before so it was a new experience for me! You could make bath/beauty products (soap, body scrub, lotion, etc), chocolates, or trail mix. All of there ingredients/products are also made from natural environmentally friendly sources.

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I decided to make a couple of soap bars and a body scrub. The process was pretty simple, you pick a shape mold for your soap and an essential oil as the scent. You also have the option to add other ingredients like charcoal, cinnamon, sea salt, etc that have various health and skin benefits. You can also add paint to give the soap some color. After you’ve picked all of your ingredients, you mix them together with the soap and fill up the shape mold! It takes about 5-10 minutes for the soap to set and dry and then you can also paint it to give it more color!

soap factory utah provo paint It was a nice activity that was reasonably priced. The lab fee is $5.00 per person and then $0.05 a gram for whichever products you make! A fun place to check out and make some unique souvenirs while you’re in Provo.

 

Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

My travels this year have been a bit more of exploring states outside of the one’s I usually frequent (CA, IL, NY, NV) and it’s been a cool experience to absorb the beauty that you can definitely find here. Especially when it comes to food. We road tripped from California up to Montana and Wyoming for an adventure through Yellow Stone National Park and The Grand Teatons and aside from the gorgeous natural beauty there was amazing ice cream.

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The ice cream game at Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is on point. It’s an all organic and natural gourmet ice cream and sorbet spot that does an amazing job of creating delicious and chemical free flavors. I went with the Black Raspberry Sorbet and it’s as delicious as it looks.

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If you’re craving civilization Jackson Hole is a cool place to stop just outside of The Grand Teatons for lunch, dessert, and some quality time bumming around through the local shops!

Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Flight Over The Serengeti in Tanzania

Few things in this world can get me out of bed at 3:30am. A sunrise hot air balloon flight over The Serengeti during our safari adventures in Tanzania was one of them. The entire safari experience is surreal but this in particular was a nice treat, especially since we were able to see things outside of our jeeps. We were picked up in the morning and drove about an hour to our balloon sight.

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We went early October and it was a bit chilly, especially that early in the morning. The air is refreshingly cool and crisp so jackets and a light scarf definitely came in handy! We caught the sun peeking out while they began to inflate our balloons and briefed us with a bit of safety and precautions.

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Shawn, our guide did a great job of following the winds and getting us a good view of all the stunning scenery. We caught some fun views of hippos, zebras, giraffes, elephants, and a few hyenas but the real treat is definitely the scenery. The entire experience was like being in a postcard, it was a stunning sunrise and chance to be up in the air.

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We ended our ballon ride with a bottomless mimosa outdoor English breakfast! All in all, it was a lovely experience. Definitely worth getting up early in the morning! And you get back midmorning so plenty of time for safari-ing post adventure!

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Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

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The only activity that I had pre-arranged prior to arriving in Nicaragua was volcano boarding. For better or worse it was an activity I very much wanted to check off my bucket list. It was probably one of the best and most thrilling life experiences that I have ever had. Definitely understand why this activity has ranked at number 2 on CNN’s daredevil bucket list! I went with BigFoot Hostel because it’s where I was staying and they invented it. Cerro Negro is also an active volcano mind you!

Now I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a typical thrill seeker. I’m more like a cautious thrill seeker, basically I’ll do it but I’m definitely not first in line excited to do it. I did a fair bit of blog reading and research pre volcano boarding and got a relatively good idea of what to expect!

The Hike

The worst part of the entire experience was the wind. We happened to go on a day where the wind was so bad that our guide felt very strongly that the park rangers should not have let us continue. Thankfully no one was injured, we had a couple people who decided they didn’t want to continue mid hike but otherwise we all made it down in one piece! The hike itself isn’t bad in terms of terrain. You’re going up in slow increments and it’s not that strenuous. I went in February and it was a hot day but that was to be expected for traveling in Nicaragua at that time of year! You’re also hiking on volcanic rock which gets hot in the sun.

Again the wind was the absolute worst part. We formed a human chain and at one point an incredibly kind giant Swedish godlike muscular man who was 7 times my size picked me up and carried me up a portion of it because my five foot two, hundred and ten pound self was barely able to stand let alone walk at certain points without blowing away.

But it was 100% worth it. That feeling of making it to the top of that damn volcano after that horrible hike up was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

Going Down

I kept trying to tell myself that I’ve been snowboarding and skiing so it’s kind of like the same experience. To an extent sort of, but snow vs volcanic rocks! My nerves were mainly about this part but it was actually the easiest and best part of the experience. You really can go as slow or as fast as you’d like to based on how you position yourself and maneuver the board. We had people fly down the volcano and others going for a leisurely pace. Totally in your hands…or feet! Basically avoid stopping and going to avoid flying off your board. If you fly off you’re flying into volcanic rocks which can obviously scratch you up!

The Gear

Your guide takes pictures, so there really isn’t any need to bring your camera or anything. They load you up with a long sleeved one piece suit, gloves, and goggles to protect you from the rocks and dust. Close toed shoes are an absolute must. I wish I would have also brought a bandana or a BUFF. Because of the wind you end up with lots of dust and ash in your lungs. They also give you a water bottle, carry it on your way up the volcano and crush/stash the bottle in the little back pack that the suit came in.

The Board

It’s basically like a light wooden rectangular shaped contraption with a rope in the middle that you hold onto to help maneuver the board. You sit on the board (some companies have boards where you stand). Your speed depends on how much you lean forward or lean back. I had zero intention of carrying my own board, I think it was an extra $5 to have one of the locals carry it up. If it’s windy, carrying that board yourself is going to make your life that much more difficult. Support the local economy!

Was it worth it? 

Hell yeah it was one of the funnest experiences I’ve ever had. Scary at some points but totally worth it! I’d do it again in a heart beat. The view of Nicaragua and the surrounding volcanoes from the top was phenomenal.

Cocktails and a view at Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens

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One would drive themselves mad attempting to pick a favorite view in Greece because everything is stunning. But, if I had to, the view and experience of watching the sunset over Athens with a cocktail at Hotel Grande Bretagne would easily be in my favorites. We sat outside and caught the view on the GB Roof Garden Restaurant and calling it spectacular would be an understatement. It’s so romantic and serene, especially when the Acropolis lights up. I loved it! The food and drinks are also delicious, the menu is fairly international with a touch of Greek influences. Definitely made for a perfect evening!

Museo de la Revolución de León, Nicaragua

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This old hunk of glory was one of my first stops in León, Nicaragua. Getting directions in Nicaragua is basically asking someone for directions and wandering until you’re not lost. Which can be its own kind of fun! This museum is relatively easy to find since it’s in the heart of town. I grew up arguably fluent in Spanish so Nicaragua was definitely an opportunity for me to rehash my speaking abilities. I roamed through this museum with one of the local Spanish speaking guides, he was a former soldier in the war against the Somoza regime. The museum is housed in the building that used to be the Palace of Communications for President Somoza but was taken over by the Sandinistas during the war. Super cool, if I recall there has been limited to no restoration work done to the building in 30 years so it’s a fascinating opportunity to soak up the culture. The museum itself consists of a ton of newspaper clippings, pictures, bits and pieces of weapons, as well as a few murals. Head up to the roof for a gorgeous view of the city. It’s definitely a cool experience and worth the couple bucks

Wine, Cheese, and a French Film in New Zealand

Alley way up to the cinema

Alley way up to the cinema

the den cinema in Arrowtown

the den cinema in Arrowtown

 

This post should really be titled “Wine, Cheese, and a French Film at a Boutique Cinema in Arrowtown, New Zealand” but this is a blog and not a book (yet!). Road tripping through New Zealand is the best way to see the country because there are so many hidden gems when you get off the beaten path. We took an afternoon trip from our base in Queenstown to visit Arrowtown. It’s really close, about a 20 km drive. Buckingham Street is small but a wonderful couple blocks of boutique shops, restaurants, and small town charm. Megan is my travel buddy and only person in the world that I know that enjoys wine and cheese plates as much as I do. Stumbling upon Dorothy Browns boutique cinema, bar, and bookshelf was basically heaven. It’s mix of romantic charm and eclectic modernism basically defined the essence of Monica in a building. We happened to be just in time for the French film (one of my favorite guilty pleasures) and had the entire living room theater to ourselves. Well us and our glasses of wine and cheese plate.

Ashtanga Yoga in Chania Crete

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Ashtanga Yoga Crete Hania Sign

Given that this is the first official post of my very long anticipated travel blog, it’s only fitting that it hits most of the Monica must knows (yoga in a foreign country). My last full day in Greece consistedof a glorious beach outting, shopping, a long nap, and yoga. I ended the night with a 7pm Ashtanga Yoga class at Yoga Crete in the middle of Hania. Driving in Greece is relatively simple. If you don’t read Greek a GPS/Sat Nav is basically a necessity because deciphering the sinage takes practice. I got to the studio super early because I didn’t want to get lost, and the studio is on a tiny one way street in a neighborhood.

I had chatted with Nektarios who owns the studio prior because the Greeks are surprisingly serious when it comes to yoga. The class that I took Monday evening was with Vaso, she was absolutely lovely. After this class I very much understood why the Greeks are serious about yoga, especially Ashtanga yoga. I teach Vinyasa and have practiced Hatha, Iyengar, and Kundalini. But this was my first Mysore Ashtanga experience. This is not a yoga class where the next poses are called out by the instructor. They make sure to have a very discrete presence, basically you do your own thing and the teacher is there to assist, adjust, and guide you further. It was a really fun experience. Granted I should have read up about what I was getting myself into before I went but Vaso was an absolute doll when she realized I have yoga’d before but no idea about the Ashtanga sequence which is very specific. I think I ended at a 2 and a half hour class which was great. My Greek speaking is limited to Tzatziki, Yassas, and Agapi so I much appreciated that Vasos English was on point and we were totally able to communicate through our mutual understanding of yoga. Definitely one of my favorite experiences in Crete, I can’t wait to come back and practice here!